By Thomas . May 3, 2014 . 5:00pm
Nintendo has been around the block a few times, so it’s no secret that they have a large catalogue of nostalgic games they can unearth and come back to, whenever the need arises.
The latest round of their memory-lane-releases includes their NES Remixes. I wasn’t really sure about these when the first one was originally announced. I didn’t understand what Nintendo was trying to do with the NES Remix. It seemed like some strange Wario Ware-esque game, but all based around classic titles—which struck me as odd, since 9-Volt in Wario Ware was pretty much that already. However, getting a chance to sit down with NES Remix 2, and getting to sink my teeth into it, helped me come to understand what these “Remix” titles are really all about.
So, at first glance NES Remix 2 undoubtedly bears a resemblance to Wario Ware. There are these short quick challenges to play, and you burn through them quickly. Kill ten enemies in Super Mario Bros. 3 while you have the star power; copy an enemy’s ability in Kirby and use it ad nauseam to get to the door; kill a couple viruses in Dr. Mario— it’s all really simple stuff and it does have a certain Wario Ware charm to it. But as the game progresses, it really begins to take on a new shape entirely.
NES Remix is broken up into two separate categories of challenges. There are the namesake Remix challenges, and then there are classic NES game challenges. Remix challenges are mixtures of many games, and sometimes games combine for one of these Remixes—like playing as Kirby in Super Mario Bros. Other times it’s a straightforward challenge that doesn’t deviate from its source game, like fighting an invisible Birdo in Super Mario Bros. 2. However, when you pick from the Remix stages you’ll be alternating a lot between the various games, so it’s never the same game for too long.
Meanwhile, the other category of challenges is the NES game challenge, where you pick your desired game. So, if you really enjoy playing Super Mario Bros. 3, you can sit there and just keep playing all of the Super Mario Bros. 3 challenges.
You’ll start out with the first stage (of twenty) in Remix I. Beating it unlocks five NES games that each have their own challenges for you to play: Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Dr. Mario, Wario’s Woods, and Kirby’s Adventure. Each game has its own number of unique challenges ranging anywhere from six to sixteen. Beating challenges in these unlocks another batch of NES Remix Challenges (Nes Remix II), and a set of Bonus Challenges, as well as new NES game challenges. While NES Remix 2 can feel a little heavy on the Mario side at first, you’ll eventually end up with those five introductory games as well as Metroid, Kid Icarus, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, Punch Out, Ice Hockey, Mario Open Golf, and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.
Progressing through all of these is when NES Remix 2 really started to turn into its own thing for me, and the Wario Ware comparisons died pretty quickly. As you get further along, some of these challenges become incredibly difficult. These are no longer short, fun little distractions like in Wario Ware, but honest challenges, and may reawaken some controller-flinging rage. They require skill and knowledge with the game, and can last quite a while. From having to get through a whole level without getting hit once, or fighting a boss without any power ups, even the puzzle games present a challenge. For example, the pills in Dr. Mario suddenly turn all gray the very second after Mario throws them (hope you have good memory).
I was never the greatest at these older 8-bit games, since I was just a kid when they came out and had my big brother help me at the time, but I don’t think I’m too bad at them either. However, there were definitely times when NES Remix 2 kicked my ass… HARD. The good news is, I kept coming back to it. Repeating all the challenges allows you see patterns, and eventually you’ll understand what the developers want out of you. You’ll eventually be able to spot that one perfect path through all the crazy amounts of spikes and obstacles that will take you to freedom. And hey, on the plus side, you can always repeat challenges without penalty. No worrying about game-overs, and having to replay all the levels in the whole game to get to that point again.
So really, unlike Wario Ware, there’s a lot of depth to be had in NES Remix 2, and old school gamers really should be in heaven. That having been said, the game does suffer one major flaw: as fun a concept as it is, these Remix titles will always have the drawback—they are only as good as the games they are taken from.
Tastes vary from person to person, and familiarity with certain games really can make all the difference with some challenges. I know I hate Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels—I once compared being forced to play it to being tortured, so slugging through those challenges were just awful for me. Wario’s Woods was another dud for me in this set, too. I’d never even played it until I got NES Remix 2, so I was utterly confused. I couldn’t get past the first challenge, and it was just frustrating. I had to go out and get Wario’s Woods on the NES to play, and after a few hours of playing the actual game, I came back to NES Remix 2 and still had trouble with some of the challenges. As of this writing, I have yet to beat all of them, and I don’t know if I ever will.
NES Remix 2 also includes a bonus game that you can play right from the start: Super Luigi Bros. It is pretty much just a mirrored version of Super Mario Bros. that has you running left instead of right. It’s amusing enough, and is a fully functional bizzaro version of Mario Bros. where Luigi takes the hero role. In fact he takes both roles! If you choose to play multiplayer then both Player 1 and Player 2 are Luigi. Sorry Mario, the Year of Luigi may be over but there’s no room for you here! The novelty of it being backwards does eventually fade, but it still provides a certain challenge for Mario Bros. veterans, since the layout being flipped means that twitch finger and memory of the levels may come back to bite you in the butt. Overall, Super Luigi Bros. is a neat little bonus that I ended up putting a couple of hours into.
What I once thought was a strange choice by Nintendo, I now find is one of the better offerings on their Wii Us eShop. At first the $15 price tag did come off as a little high to me, but this game really does have the meat on it to support such a price. Unlocking more games and challenges, and trying to see all the games that it had to offer was a blast. And even though I don’t think every game contained within is a winner, it still makes for a great pick up for Wii U owners who might be waiting for some other games to come out. If you enjoy a good challenge, and love the Nintendo of old, don’t be scared away by the price—it’s definitely worth it.
Food for thought:
1. Players are rewarded B points for getting through challenges, the better you do the more points, and when you accumulate enough you get stamps. If you played Super Mario 3D World,you should be aware how these work: you can use them to make Miiverse posts, and it can be quite fun. One of my first posts was Little Mac and Link impressing Peach.
2. Speaking of Little Mac, I found Punch-Out to be among my favorites in this set of games. I also loved Dr. Mario, Ice Hockey, and Super Mario Bros. 2. Meanwhile, Wario’s Woods and The Lost Levels were among my least favorites. I still think we got the better deal when they re-skinned Doki Doki Panic.
3. Nintendo does seem open to the idea of doing SNES and GBA Remixes in the future.